20 October 2014

Sex and the Trudeaus: Son and Hair

Justin Trudeau's memoir was released this morning, two days after what would've been his father's 95th birthday, one year (less a day) before the next federal election. The former is a coincidence.

Reviews are already in. Hours before pub date, customer critic "Page" posted a one-star review under the title "Shows how arrogant JT really is" at chapters.indigo.ca. This, of course, begs a question: Just how arrogant do you have to be to dismiss a book you haven't read?

By comparison, the attack dogs at Sun News have been slow off the mark. Who can blame them? They're still gnawing on last week's Chatelaine profile of Trudeau and his young family. Why just hours ago, it posted as its "VIDEO OF THE DAY" a segment dealing with same from Michael Coren's Agenda.

"I'm not going to pretend that I read Chatelaine magazine; I'm not sure many people read Chatelaine at all," said Coren of Canada's highest circulation magazine. This country's most incompetent book reviewer went on to describe the article as "one of the most callow, fawning pieces I have ever seen". Paige MacPherson of Sun News joined in to form a most impassioned circle jerk. Said she of the article:
It talks about Justin in this glowing fawning sort of a way, as well as his wife and his children, and it's certainly I don't think befitting of the title of the article, which we showed there, 'Is Justin Trudeau the Candidate Women Have Been Waiting For?'. Well, as a woman, at the end of this article I have no idea if he's the candidate that I've been waiting for because it doesn't say anything about him as a politician or as a candidate for prime minister of our country.
As a man, I won't presume to weigh in on the issue, except to note that the title takes the form of a question. We agree on that right? Can we also agree that its author, Carol Toller, has a good deal to say about Trudeau as politician?

Michael Coren seizes bullshit by the horns in focusing on the above photo:
People don't usually, as an entire family, in their clothes, get into the swimming pool unless they're all mentally ill. They've obviously been told by the photographer, "Let's do this. It's warm enough. We'll take the photo." And we're meant to think this is normal Trudeau behaviour.
Two things about this statement:
  • Michael Coren is either forgetting – or trying to remind, none too subtly – that Justin Trudeau's mother suffers from bipolar disorder. The affliction is thought to be hereditary, dontcha know.
  • In the article, Ms Toller writes that "someone" suggested the family jump in the pool. Trudeau, we are told "laughs it off, then pauses as though he can see it – how it’ll play on the page, how it’ll showcase their sense of fun, project a 'Canadian political dynasties are just like you' insouciance."
How it'll play out on the page? How it'll "project a 'Canadian political dynasties are just like you' insouciance"? Really? In an article that "doesn't say anything about him as a politician"?

By this point, Sun was reporting – incorrectly – that Chatelaine had endorsed Justin Trudeau. Things moved from being underhanded, ignorant, clumsy and stupid to otherworldly when Coren pretended he knew something about to Chatelaine – which, you'll remember, is a magazine he doesn't read. "They always profile political figures in an infantile way", said the host, comparing the family profile to an opinion piece the magazine had published eight years earlier. Ms MacPherson then ruined the narrative:
I have to say, in fairness, there was a lifestyle piece on Stephen Harper and his family as well, but it was nowhere the glowing, fawning piece this very long – basically – essay on how wonderful and carefree the Trudeaus are. It was nothing compared to that.
You see, the real problem with "Is Justin Trudeau the Candidate Women Have Been Waiting For?" isn't that it's a puff piece, but that it's puffier than the one written about the Harpers.

Just about the worst part to a fellow like Coren is this line: "Many voters aren’t sweating the details: They already like what they see in Trudeau – his storied lineage, his youthful energy, his awesome hair."

"How could any journalist sleep at night having written 'awesome hair' in a profile of a man who might well be the next prime minister?" the host asked.

I suggest Coren consult his colleagues at Sun News, who have described Mr Trudeau's hair as "great" (Brian Lilley), "great" (Lorne Gunther), "great" (John Robson), "luxurious" (Monte Solberg), "fantastic" (Simon Kent), "beautiful" (Ezra Levant) and "beautiful" (Ezra Levant, again). Christina Blizzard remarked that the Liberal leader has "nicer hair than Harper". Does it say something about Sun that so many of its men, and so few of its women, obsess over Justin Trudeau's hair?

Michael Coren himself has written about the man's "great hair". My favourite of his articles is the one in which he writes of Trudeau's "nice hair, good looking, cute smile, famous and clever dad, 'interesting' mum."

That's right, "'interesting' mum."

However does Michael Coren sleep at night?

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17 October 2014

Ce soir: Hommage à Louis Hémon

Hommage à Louis Hémon
Parrainé par le Writers' Chapel Trust
Vous êtes invités à assister au dévoilement d'une plaque commémorative.

Micheline Cambron (Université de Montréal) prendra la parole.

Vendredi, 17 Octobre, 2014 à 18:00
Église Anglicaine de Saint James the Apostle
1439 rue Sainte-Catherine, Ouest

Une réception avec vin et fromage suivra l'événement.

Louis Hémon Tribute
Sponsored by The Writers’ Chapel Trust
You are invited to attend the unveiling of a commemorative plaque.

Micheline Cambron of the Université de Montréal will speak.

 Friday October 17, 2014 at 6 p.m.
St. James the Apostle Anglican Church
1439 St. Catherine Street West

A reception with wine and cheese will follow.

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15 October 2014

Touched in the Head by a Telepathic Virgin

Soft to the Touch
Clark W. Dailey
Toronto: News Stand Library, 1949

Caroline Prentiss entertains her male visitors – and she has many – in revealing robes and diaphanous negligees. She loves to kiss and encourages caresses, but don't you go getting any ideas about taking things further. At twenty-six, Caroline guards her virginity like no one, convinced that it is tied inextricably to her independence.

Understandably, swains swarm, but quickly fall away in frustration. Only two, playboy Harvey Garrett and lawyer Larry Devlin, show any stamina. Both have been pursuing Caroline for years, each pitching woo and proposing marriage. With a girl on the side, I think Harvey has had an easier time of it; poor love-struck Larry has been leading the life of a celibate.

Caroline is content with the status quo. Montreal's foremost celebrity sculptress – no joke – she takes pride in her ability to make a good living without being tied to any one man. When not entertaining, Caroline throws off robe and negligee so as to admire her naked self in a full-length mirror. The reader is twice told that she is the spitting image of Virginia Mayo.

The great Thomas P. Kelley, King of the Canadian Pulps, once bragged that he never revised a work in progress. I don't mean to suggest that Clark W. Dailey – of whom there is no trace – is Kelley, rather that the two men held similar views when it came to composition.

The fourth of this novel's eight chapters begins with something of a revelation. The celebrity sculptress is shown to be struggling financially. The post-war art boom has proved to be more of a sharp crack, and Caroline is forced to sell her work at bargain basement prices. Good guy Larry offers to pay her rent and bills, but Caroline hesitates. She fears the effect the loan – or is it a gift? – might have on their relationship. Ultimately, the sculptress accepts the lawyer's help.

Then something odd happens: Sans explication, the narrator (omniscient) reverses things, revealing that the lawyer has been paying for everything, Caroline's car included, for many months. A couple of chapters later, the reader learns that she has been passing on wads of Larry's dough to support Harvey. In today's parlance we might describe this as a reboot, with Caroline is reimagined as someone who never was a successful sculptor, despite her celebrity.

It's enough to make you want to throw the book against a wall. I didn't because it was already coming apart, and also because the many weird digressions contained entertained. Here, our omniscient narrator goes off on an awkwardly constructed tirade about the New Look:
How many women try to keep themselves slim, and when they look like a sheet of paper set up on end, with but the merest suggestion of what could be an attractive pair of rising beauties, when what curves they have are shrouded by grotesque "New Look"clothing, when they can walk down the street looking exactly like almost every other woman, that is, they wear a smug expression, because they think they are beautiful! Gawdallmighty! – how the fashion designers and their partners in misleading 'how to be smart' muck, the dress manufacturers, must smiles they purchase another yacht to set sail for Africa to get away from the horrible shapes they have been instrumental in creating, and to gaze in rapture and admiration upon woman as she was made to be – white, yellow or black! 
The book is peppered with rants, observations and other asides. The most repeated topic concerns "thought transference". Brace yourself, the narrator has some pretty harsh things to say:

Sadly, Soft to the Touch isn't worth reading for the plot; I'm not spoiling anything by describing the drama that ensues.

Harvey tries to kill his rival with some sort of poison he brought back from the war. Larry makes it to a hospital, where he lies drifting in and out of consciousness. During one lucid moment he asks Caroline to marry him. The sculptress agrees, but only because doctors have told her that he is sure to die. The bedside ceremony is performed, after which Larry loses consciousness for what looks to be the very last time. Caroline is left alone with her dying husband:
She was thinking. "How wonderfully he rallied after I held his hands for a long time. Perhaps..."
   She rose and, as before, took both his hands in her soft, warm ones. Then she drew all her inner forces and mental resources together and concentrated her thoughts on one short phrase, "I shall live." Perhaps if she could drive this straight from her brain into his, it would affect him.
Affect him it does! After a long night of handholding, Larry bounces back. The attending doctor, "wise, kind and clever, and a man very much interested in natural methods of healing," is pleasantly surprised. He sees nothing wrong with Larry wolfing down bacon, eggs and coffee with his new bride: "Hurrah!" exclaimed Larry, "our first breakfast together."

The last we see of Harvey, he's rushing off to the airport to catch a clipper to Bermuda. Larry is quickly discharged and returns to Caroline's Bishop Street apartment. The last pages of the novel are heavy with the promise of sex, but it ends before the act takes place. This reader didn't care; I'd long grown bored of Caroline and her groping admirers. I do miss the haranguing narrator, though, even if he can't be trusted.

Keeping one hand on the wheel, his other reached over and brushed her thigh, then touched the purse which lay in her lap.
Object and Access: An extremely fragile mass market paperback. At 159 pages – twelve of which are blank – Soft to the Touch may just be the shortest News Stand Library title. I'm guessing that the unknown cover artist had never seen a photo of Virginia Mayo. I'm certain he'd never seen a naked woman.

Soft to the Touch is nowhere to be found on Amicus or WorldCat. Only three copies are currently listed for sale online, ranging in price from $10 to $25. Condition is a factor. Get it while you can.

08 October 2014

'October in War Time'

Timely verse from the Great War by James A. Ross. First published in the 22 October 1918 edition of the Medicine Hat News, the above comes from the poet's Canada First and Other Poems (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1920).

06 October 2014

Talking Canadian Noir with Brian Kaufman

Hitting newsstands as I type: the Pulp Fiction issue of subTerrain. Number 68, it contains all sorts of goodness, including stories by Jesse Donaldson, Jenean McBrearty, Bruce McDougall, J.O. Bruday, Sam Wiebe, Lisa Pike, Chelsea Rooney and John Moore. Add to that poetry from Mark Parsons, John Creary, Carolye Kutcha and John Greenhause, along with an essay by Peter Babiak.

Editor Brian Kaufman interviews me about the Ricochet Books series. I let drop that we'll be publishing Martin Brett's Hot Freeze, "the greatest of all Canadian post-war noir."

Dig that cover by Ryan Heshka.

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01 October 2014

Montrose en français: une enquête de Russell Teed

"La surprise de l’automne", writes Le Devoir critic Michel Bélair. Indeed, it is. Tomorrow sees publication of Meurtre à Westmount, a translation of David Montrose's The Crime on Cote des Neiges, marking the first time the author's work has been available in French. Credit goes to translator Sophie Cardinal-Corriveau who discovered Montrose through the 2010 Ricochet Books reissue. She knows talent when she sees it, as does Éditions Hurtubise editor André Gagnon, who writes in his note de l'éditeur, "j'ai pensé qu'il serait si j'ose dire criminel de ne pas offrir au lectorat francophone québécois cette irrésistible radiographie de la vie montréalaise des années d'après-querre, une histoire aussi sombre sue grinçante, pimentée d'action et arrosée de quelques bonnes pintes de Dow."

Yvon Roy contributed the cover illustration to this very handsome edition. A translation of my Ricochet Preface also features.

M Bélair describes Montrose as a writer of talent, comparing him favourably to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

He'll get no argument from me.

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